EXHIBITION Jan 28 — Feb 25, 2012
To kick off 2012, Kicken Berlin presents the exhibition Rudolf Koppitz and Other European Masters from January 27 through February 25 as well as a selection from Gundula Schulze Eldowy’s Berlin in einer Hundenacht /Berlin on a Dog’s Night (1977–1990) in Kicken II’s exhibition space.
Rudolf Koppitz (1884–1936) may be considered Austria’s most prominent inner-war-era photographer. His life’s work spans both a variety of pictorialist imagery as well as the clear aesthetic of modernism’s New Objectivity around 1930. His Bewegungsstudie/Movement Study of three black-robed dancers with a female nude from 1925 is his most celebrated image and simultaneously an icon of photo history. The image unites the elegance of the flowing lines of Viennese art nouveau with the precise, sharp gaze of the modern. Koppitz interpreted this motif using various techniques, from rich pigment and bromoil prints to silver gelatin prints.
Less well known but no less bold in their abstraction are the cloud studies taken by the surveillance pilot from an open airplane during World War I. Furthermore, Koppitz’s self portraits hiking through the mountains and pictures of his powerful exposed body attest to a confident, new self-representation of vital physicality in accord with the nature of the mountains. In addition to the artist’s stupendous mastery of such various printing techniques, Koppitz is known for his subtle, strict, and yet harmonious compositions, the spectrum of which ranges from the elegance of the Bewegungsstudien and nudes to the seemingly cropped, monumental abstractions of statuesque figures of the Heimatphotographie (homeland photography) movement from the 1930s.
Koppitz himself considered the triptych of images Mutter und Kind/Mother and Child (his wife Anna with their daughter Liselotte), Bewegungsstudie, and the self-portrait Im Schoße der Natur/In the Lap of Nature to be among his most important works. A large-format version long hung prominently in his atelier. Here the study of fertility, eroticism, and self-perception can be experienced in a more intimate format in three clear silver gelatin prints.
Kicken Berlin embeds the work of Rudolf Koppitz, long-time professor at Vienna’s Graphischen Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie, in the context of the Central European avant-garde. In particular his contemporary Heinrich Kühn and Czechs Karel Novak, Josef Sudek, and Frantisek Drtikol and Hungarian Ferenc Háar enrich the Austrian’s aesthetic world with their portraits, nude studies, and still lifes. Works by Karl Bloßfeldt, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and Aenne Biermann focus more specifically on the use of a clear, object-based photography. Koppitz, artist and teacher, was indeed very popular in his own time, as evidenced by his regular participation in the international exhibitions of the renowned amateur photographers movement, with Frantisek Drtikol and Josef Sudek among others. A one-man show travelled through nine venues in the US in 1929; the retrospective Land und Leute/Country and People united over five hundred of the artist’s works in Vienna in 1936, shortly before his death.
Koppitz, one of the twentieth century’s most well-known unknown photographers, together with the avant-gardes of his era, comprise the heart of the exhibition, which is dedicated to his daughter Liselotte (1925–2011). Liselotte, who like her father also completed her photo studies at Vienna’s Graphischen Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt, together with her husband Klaus Tavs worked tirelessly to preserve and process the estate and archives of the photographic family. Indeed her mother Anna worked together with Rudolf Koppitz, and a number of his works can in fact be attributed to her. A selection of works by Liselotte Tavs-Koppitz rounds out the show.
Dr. Paul Wolff
Gundula Schulze Eldowy